Mitch Tallan, his shadow above, visited Southern California last week and was able to get in a couple of days of riding around Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley. While I had read about the drought, the above image gave me a vivid illustration of its impact. This is what it typically looks like in July, not February, when green normally is the dominant color. Above, Mitch was riding up the Happy Canyon side of Figueroa Mountain and paused at the dirt section to take this image during his 9 mile ascent. Read Mitch's report below.
I started on the Los Olivos side rather than Solvang after reading somewhere that if you rode from the West you got the gravel on the ascent rather than descent. This was Friday morning. It was warm in Santa Barbara, close to 60, and above that by the time I started.
I parked in front of some coffee shop in Los Olivos and decided to dispense with leg warmers though I did have long sleeved base layers on, and started on 154 heading SE and was on it for a bit longer than I cared for looking for Happy Canyon. I ended up turning left onto Armour Ranch figuring it had to lead to Happy Canyon and it did. Took Happy Canyon to Figueroa and the fun started. I didn't think the climbing was all that hard-at first- though I was mostly in my lowest gear, 39x25 on carbon rims and tubular, til I got to the gravel section. It had rained a bit over the last two days and the gravel section was more like muddy grit with deep ruts where trucks and jeeps had gone through. By that time, the road had become inundated with some fairly good sized rocks that had obviously slid from the surrounding embankments. The third pic from my iPhone shows the condition of the muddy/gritty section. Around the bend it got much worse and it was all I could do to maintain traction up the hill while still rolling forward. Mud and grit was scraping between my Conty Sprinter rear and the seat tube.
From that point, I have to confess that the climb was now getting a bit challenging. I was alternating between seated and standing climbing fairly regularly the rest of the way. As you know, the surrounding scenery is pretty much out of this World. I came up on one other cyclist on a fancy Trek rent-a-bike complete with Shimano D12 and a compact crank and I rode with him for a little while-he was from Roanoke VA and he kept encouraging me to leave him behind which I ultimately did maybe a half mile from the top. He was a small guy wearing a bunch of winter gear and he told me I was nuts for riding bare legged and at that point I had to agree with him. About two miles from the top, the sunshine and the warm air disappeared and was replaced by wind, fog, and
cold air. There was easily a 20 degree change from the west side to the east side of the mountain.
Then came the descent which as you know is mostly decent followed by a short additional climb and then all steep switchback descents from there all the way back to Midland School where it becomes flat. I gotta confess that on carbon wheels, with cold hands and legs, the switchback descents were a bit hairy. Todd Mullins and I descended Brasstown Bald with less concerns than I had going down parts of Figueroa. My front brake pads were visibly deforming and shredding from all the braking I was forced to do. Would definitely recommend alloy wheels rather than carbon for this route. So that was Figueroa.
The day before, Thursday morning, I started out on a small group ride from the "Dolphin Fountain" at State Street in Santa Barbara right at the pier and it was just six of us. Apparently the prospect for rain scared off the others. That ride was memorable because two of the guys hammered the whole time and it was all I could do to stay on their wheel. Two hour ride that I believe is a
standard loop for the locals. We ran into Dave Lettieri (former Olympian and bike shop owner) and a buddy of his about half way through and they turned around and joined us. Dave was riding his Trek cross bike with front and rear disc brakes and fat knobby cyclocross tires on it, and he lagged behind a bit on the hills though I think it was to stay with his friend who looked to be only an average rider, but he is ridiculously smooth and no doubt strong. Dave rides what I call "all out Euro style"-14 cm stem with negative rise-so that his back is absolutely flat and he is laid out over his frame like a European pro, and of course, he looks the part despite being 49. As you no doubt know, Dave is just naturally cool as though he was born in Santa Barbara even though he is actually from Scranton PA, the armpit of the universe.
Luke (works in Dave's bike shop) is a real character. Everything out of his mouth is a wisecrack. Great guy. So that was pretty much my trip. I got to ride a couple of hours just before sunset on Tuesday as well, so I got three rides in. Our first three days, Monday through Wednesday we were actually in LA and we spent only three days in Santa Barbara. I actually drove from LA to Santa Barbara on Tuesday just to get on my bike, before returning to LA afterwards.
Big thanks to Mitch for sharing his experience. You too can bring entertainment to the masses stuck in Ohio's winter by sending me your report so we can all live vicariously through your experience. Why, something from Marty would be good as he rides around Encinitas, CA and Hendra down there in Greenville.